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Film Review: Vampires (1998)

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SYNOPSIS:

Recovering from an ambush that killed his entire team, a vengeful vampire slayer must retrieve an ancient Catholic relic that, should it be acquired by vampires, will allow them to walk in sunlight.

REVIEW:

1998’s Vampires is probably better known by its associated name “John Carpenter’s Vampires”, which helped to brand it slightly more recognizable over the swarm of vampire-named films pouring out over the years. In any case, it stands as probably one of Carpenter’s more under-appreciated efforts. Vampires stands as a cult classic contribution to the prince of darkness-fanged genre releases that simply seems to have been on unneeded hold for way too long. The film is reported to have been adapted from the novel Vampire$ by John Steakley.

Hitting bluray for the first time, you can (yet again) thank the diligent distributors at Shout Factory for bringing this one to light. In fact, several of Carpenter’s films have made there way to the surface thru this industrious team that seems determined to deliver all forgotten cool films into the high definition arena.

Getting back to the focal film of review, we have a fresh vampire release adding contribution to the collective of things that lurk in the dark. What is more curious here is that actor James Woods was actually selected to play the Helsing-like vampire killer. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love love James Woods of who has been in some of the more recognizable cult films of last few decades (Videodrome, The Onion Field, Cat’s Eye, Casino, Contact). however, vampire killer was not unexpected. The great news is, Woods nails it and brings huge appeal to the part.

James Woods plays the role of outlaw vampire killer Jack Crow. Commissioned by the Vatican, per his boss Cardinal Alba, he and his posse of vampire killers makes their way from nest to nest in search of vampire “masters” and their associated lairs. Using a variety of tools and techniques, the group has a pretty efficient system of invading vampire lairs. However, as they seek out the master of a recent lair, they end up uncovering the supreme master of the vampire race named Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith). Valek is a powerful vampiric entity that they say was transformed into a vampire out of a botched exorcism. Valek who has no trouble wasting an entire group of vampire killers walks tall in his Trent Reznor-like demeanor while in search of an artifact called the “Black Cross of Berziers

Jack, hot on his trail, is determined to seek out the alpha vamp in hopes of killing off the entire race. As he is sent out on assignment, Jack is joined by his partner Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) one of he few survivors of Jack’s former crew, The 2 of them hit the road toting hooker Katrina (Sheryl Lee) who is now psychically connected with Valek due to an inflicted bite. The idea is that Katrina will lead them to Valek per this link, and thus his current location.

As Jack heads south with his team, he eventually ends up at an old Spanish prison where the occupants have been slaughtered by Valek while guarding the cross. This is where it gets fun!

Vampires is a fun film that has some great vampire kill moments laced through out. The bodies pile up with decapitations, severed limbs, and plenty of corpses with their hearts torn out.

While the film does run a bit longer than it needs to (1 hr 48 minutes), it still stands out as one of Carpenter’s interestingly cool contributions to the vampire lore. The villain Valek is massively creepy (and appropriate to the story) while James Woods is simply great at being himself. There is some dark humor here that breaks up the horror aspect quite nicely. It is also worth mention that actress Sheryl Lee is quite sexy throughout the film. Those who only know her as Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks will appreciate the expanded role of Katrina.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of us horror fanatics are also part time collectors of sorts. The reintroduction of John Carpenter’s Vampires to high res is a greatly overdue task that can now be laid to rest and the release features plenty of extras to entertain you.

While it is not likely these days that actor Woods will be taking on any more vampire movie roles, we are glad that he did for this one.

It is worth nothing that the film had 2 sequels: Vampires: Los Muertos (2002) and Vampires: The Turning (2005). Vampires: Los Muertos, while not a great movie, did feature singer Jon Bon Jovi in the lead, worth watching for that alone.

Bonus Features

  • NEW Time To Kill Some Vampires – An Interview With Composer/Director John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King Carpenter, And Cinematographer Garry B. Kibbe
  • NEW Jack The Slayer – An Interview With Actor James Woods
  • NEW The First Vampire – An Interview With Actor Thomas Ian Griffith
  • NEW Raising The Stakes – An Interview With Special Effects Artist Greg Nicotero
  • NEW Padre – An Interview With Actor Tim Guinee
  • Audio Commentary By Composer/Director John Carpenter
  • Isolated Score
  • Vintage Making Of Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

Vampires is now available on blu ray per Shout Factory

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